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Healthy eating: Wellbeing at work

DAN KELLY
DIRECTOR OF FOOD, AT VACHERIN – AN INDEPENDENTLY OWNED FOODSERVICE COMPANY

The workplace is the perfect place to raise awareness and transform mindsets and behaviours towards healthy eating and nutrition. We believe employers have an obligation to care for the health and safety of their employees, and that’s universally accepted, but when it comes to general wellbeing this can be overlooked.

Businesses have a duty to actively encourage their employees to change their eating habits, in order to have a healthy impact on the overall wellbeing of the workforce. Eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet can contribute to a whole range of benefits, including decreased stress and anxiety, boosts in mood and energy levels, and a lower risk of disease.

We all have traditional dishes that we love to eat. Unfortunately, these are often the ones that aren’t great for us, nutritionally. But we don’t believe we should deprive ourselves of the food we love; instead, we should be thinking about how we can make small changes that can make a lot of difference healthwise. We’ve recently launched our ‘Better for you’ range, which comprises a selection of firm foodie favourites that have undergone slight recipe tweaks and ingredient swaps that make them better for you.

Our aim is not to compromise on flavour, but improve dishes on the whole. Through doing this, we’ve made the staple favourites on workplace menus better for those who eat them, so they can be enjoyed guilt-free. All the changes we’ve made have been overseen by our in-house nutritionist to ensure they make an effective change.

White pasta makes an appearance on a lot of menus, so one of our changes is to instead use wholemeal, which is higher in fibre, or replace with slices of squash or courgette, for lasagnes. Bechamel sauce can also be replaced by thin cauliflower or white bean purée. With these small changes, employees can still easily get the foods they love, without the worry of proactively having to make healthy choices.

JAMES MINTON
GROUP DEVELOPMENT CHEF, RADISH – A DIVISION OF CHURCHILL GROUP

The way in which we work is changing, and so is the way in which we eat during the working day. Most people now prefer to graze on smaller, more frequent, meals to reduce the chance of a ‘sugar crash’ in the afternoon. This preference for ‘grab and go’ is being seen in business and industry as well as higher education. Caterers are responding to this by offering convenient meals that are filling, yet also full of nutrients.

A key trend that I see emerging in the workplace is the subsidising of healthier food. Giving colleagues a financial incentive to make better choices is powerful, especially when incorporated as part of a company-wide wellbeing initiative. Offering both monetary and health benefits gives a greater ‘nudge’ to those who have long-standing unhealthy food habits.

Organisations are now recognising that good catering plays a key role in the wellbeing of colleagues, and as a result of this, the levels of output they see from the workforce. Radish, for example, is promoting a ‘good mood food’ initiative across all its contracts to help colleagues get an even spread of energy and nutrition throughout the working day.

Approaching food in this way allows us to align more closely with a client’s core business or bottom line, which can only be a good thing.

People now want a greater understanding of what goes into their food the ‘you are what you eat’ mantra has carried over into catering strategy. Part of promoting healthier options is being honest with consumers; this means provenance, detailed lists of ingredients, and any possible red flags for those with allergies. If you are transparent with people, they are more likely to view healthier options in a positive way.

Greater awareness of food allergies and intolerances is fuelling a rise in ‘free-from’ alternatives. You need only look at convenience stores and supermarkets to see this market growing rapidly, and this is also carrying over into catering.

Social media has made what were once niche dietary choices more visible. Clean eating, veganism, low carb and paleo diets are just some of the trends that have moved into the mainstream. People are now more conscious of mind and body, as well as the impact food production has on the planet. Caterers are responding to this by offering a wider range of options for ‘alternative’ lifestyles. A key part of encouraging the workforce to make positive food choices is being more inclusive and mindful of people’s varying requirements.

About Sarah OBeirne

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